One cannot look at the current affairs of the world without encountering one very prominent and disturbing organisation: The Islamic State (IS). Its spectre looms large over the Middle East claiming both territory and lives, but if you look further into the organization itself, past the propaganda you start to see the fundamentals of the politics being employed. Questions begin to sprout, one of which I will attempt to answer here.
To effectively examine whether IS is essentially a fascist organization we must look at several key factors the most obvious being their methods and their politics. We can also examine their history to understand their future. The easiest way to confirm this is to compare them against the greatest exponent of the fascist ideal in the last 200 years: The National Socialist Movement in Germany.
The Nazi Party invaded all of the social and political structures of Germany, perverting a great and noble people into the worst cycle of human depravity. No structure was so greatly invaded than the minds of the people of Germany, organisations like the Hitler Youth exploited the young forcing them to accept their ideology from an early age. They also exploited the ordinary working class people of Germany, so humbled by the effects of the great depression using rallies, propaganda and promises of a new future.
IS, while not in possession of a country rather a fluid state employs similar methods to radicalise ordinary Muslims. It uses social media and the internet to broadcast its messages of hate, none more so than the sickening videos of their massacres. Its videos of the vile beheading of westerners like Alan Hemming push the ideology that the western powers can be challenged and they can do nothing about it.
The use of obvious propaganda instruments like social media is supported by its use of subversive propaganda. IS targets vulnerable Islamic youth radicalising them with promises that they are doing what Allah wants them to do. The fact that a lot of these “Jihadi Johns” are springing up in the combat zones is proof that their message is getting through. It is not just male Muslims being targeted, there has been a disturbing rise in “Jihadi brides”, vulnerable women lured to the Middle East as part of a scheme to marry them to IS fighters. The fact that it is now an offence to view a beheading video online under anti-terrorism laws is testament to how seriously the Western powers view IS propaganda.
Religion played a prominent but not obvious part in Nazi ideology, manifesting itself in the myth of the Aryan race and its divine destiny to rule the world. The Nazis perverted pagan mysticism and scripture to suit their ideology and supported this through the use of the aforementioned propaganda rallies and book burnings. Even newer mediums such as film were used as tools for ramming home this belief system, directors like Leni Riefenstahl were indoctrinated into making propaganda films like Victory of Faith.
IS exploits religion in a far more obvious way, using it as a bedrock of their organization. You cannot view a video of IS fighters without encountering references to Allah and the Quran, even though every Muslim organization has denounced them as zealots. The establishment of the Islamic Caliphate has been cloaked in the scriptures and traditions of Sunni Islam. Radicalised clerics have used Islamic texts to legitimize the movements and the massacres.
The core membership of the Nazi party was primarily composed of politicized veterans of the First World War and middle class Germans. Men with experience of combat and higher education than the disaffected individuals that they drew to their cause.
The current leader and Emir of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdad obtained a BA, MA and a PHD in Islamic studies from the University of Baghdad. Many of the core members of IS are former members of Saddam Hussein’s Republican guard, men such as Abu Muslim al-Turkmani and Abu Ali al-Anbari. Both men were dismissed from the guard in 2003 after the American led invasion of Iraq, drifting into radicalization and then open insurrection against Iraq and Syria. Education and military experience has enhanced the effectiveness of IS and its message.
Both organizations have used genocide to expand their spheres of influence. The Nazi’s used eugenics as a cloak for the removal of those they deemed to be inferior like the Jews and homosexuals. IS regularly engages in the genocide of Shia Muslims but does not cloak its activities, in fact it pushes them to the forefront of its propaganda message. In addition the principals of Lebensraum and the Islamic Caliphate are very similar in their intention to unite both Islamic and Germanic peoples.
Moving away from National Socialism, comparing IS to fascism itself provides a good comparison but it ultimately raises more questions than answers. The chief virtues of Fascism like totalitarianism and direct action through violence, together with the fascist view of the roles of Men and Women are in evidence when looking at IS.
Its desire to purge all pervasive and corrupting influences to enable a regeneration also harkens to the Fascist ideal of palingenesis. The idea of sweeping away the old order in favour of the new, or in this case sweeping away those who do not share the IS interpretation of Islam.
However the other chief tenet of Fascism, the nationalist ideal is not in evidence because the IS nation state has not been established as a stable country. There is no certainty if this will take place, not if the nations of the coalition have anything to say about it.
As an observer of this movement, you could argue that once the area is brought entirely under IS control that the green shoots of Nationalism will spring up to complement those fascistic qualities which already exist in IS, but it remains to be seen.
While IS shares many similarities with Fascism, the ultimate judgment as to whether it is or is not will only be borne out by time and in all likelihood not by this generation of political observers.
As members of the politically aware world it is our responsibility to form these judgments and make such comparisons to gauge the principles and motivations of the political organisations involved. In short we must always ask these questions.
Dedicated to LSS: Thanks for the idea and support.
© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.